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Facts about the Crow Indian Tribe

Facts about the Crow Indian Tribe

One of the native American Indian tribes, the Crow Indian tribe has its own identity and a unique way of living life. Historyplex takes you through some interesting-to-know facts about this tribe.
Rujuta Patil
People with Seven Senses!
Crow tribals believe that they have seven senses, the additional two being intuitions and dreams. They take their dreams to be signals from the creator.
The real name of Crow Indians is Apsáalooke (or children of the large-beaked bird). Then, where did the word 'Crow' come from? Well, it has a story behind it. The French, during their first confrontation with the tribals, accidentally misunderstood the large-beaked bird to be a crow. Thus, they were labeled as Crow Indians. Absarooke or Absaroka are a few incorrect variations of their name. There also are many clans within them. Mountain Crow, River Crow, and the Kick in the Bellies are three different groups of this tribe.
History and Timeline
1400s - The Crow and the Hidatsa tribe originally belonged to the Great Lakes region near Ohio. Later, a Crow group leader led the tribe to the west in search of sacred tobacco. He had a vision that the tobacco would be spiritually significant for the Apsáalooke.

1600s - A dispute that took place over the Missouri river formed a separate group among the crows, who lived on the river banks, thus called the River Crow.

1700s - Their first encounter with the Europeans was probably during the time of fur trade when they came across the French-Canadian traders.

1820s - The first treaty between the Apsáalookes and the United States was signed.

1860s - They fought a battle with the Lakotas, Cheyennes, and the Arapaho to protect their eastern lands. After this invasion of the Lakotas, Crow tribals had their first government agency set up in Montana.
Crow Indian Reservation
South of Billings, in Montana, it is an area of around 2 million acres, where approximately 13,000 Apsáalooke tribals live.

First Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851 was when this tribe was allocated land in the states of Wyoming, Montana, and North Dakota.

Second Fort Laramie Treaty in 1868 defined the current borders of the Crow reservation.
Apsáalooke Nation
In 1948, the Crow nation had its first constitution, followed by the second one in 2001.
It is governed by the Crow Tribal General Council. Crow Agency is the headquarters of the tribe in Montana.
It is a CDP or Census Designated Place.
Crow language is a part of the Siouan language family. The Crow and Hidatsa (language of another native American tribe) are said to be alike.

Crow Indians had a matriarchal society. Women had a higher position and were looked at with honor. Some women also headed their clans. Men lived at the women's home after marriage, at her mother's house.

Stories form a very crucial part of the crow culture. The Old Man at the Beginning is one such famous legend of the Crow tribe. He asks two ducks whether water is the only thing that the world is made of. They find roots and wet earth while searching in water. The old man plants the roots into the earth, blows on to the ball thrice, and the ball-shaped earth grows bigger and bigger. It takes up a large space, forcing all the water away. That gradually turns into the Earth, who nurtures all the living beings, and the Old Man is believed to have created the Crow tribe.
Annual Crow Fair
Held every third weekend in the month of August, it is also known as the Teepee capital of the world, as hundreds of teepees can be seen near the Little Big Horn River valley during the fair. It is a place to enjoy rodeo, horse racing, music, pow wow dances, and also dance competitions.

Year 2018 will be the centenary year of the Annual Crow Fair.

A music and dance performance by the younger tribals is known as forty-nine dance, which is performed during the Crow fairs.

Attire of the dancers has a variety here:
crow indian tribe shawl dancer
Female shawl dancer
crow indian tribe male dancer
Traditional male dancer's attire
crow indian tribe jingle dress
Jingle dress
One of their costumes includes the Jingle dress. It has long, angular metallic bells woven onto it that make the tinkling sound while dancing.
crow Indian tribe buckskin dancer
Another dancer wearing a robe made from buckskin
There is music for almost all religious ceremonies and rituals.
pow wow drums
A group of tribals surrounds this pow wow drum and play it together.
Percussion instruments or drums used include two types. Small ones are hand-sized and the bigger ones are the Pow wow drums.
Flute is also played during many occasions including courtship. However, it is mostly used for the purpose of healing.
As the Crow Indians belong to the Great Plains region, they have a wide vocal range.
Buffalo jump was the practice of hunting followed. A herd of animals was tricked up to a cliff by imitating a buffalo calf or by frightening them. Thus, they were either caught alive or forced to jump off the cliff and the dead animals were used as meat.
Women collected fruits, primarily different kinds of berries.
Bison meat was the traditional and high nutrition food. However, deer, buffalo, and elk meat were a part of meals too.
Also, roots like rhubarbs, wild carrots, potatoes, turnips, sego lily, and bitterroot constituted their diet. Some Crow clans practiced agriculture by growing beans, corn, and squash.
Crow cuisine is famous for its Pemmican dish (or laxshe) made from Bison meat, sometimes also from Elk meat. It is a high-fat, high-protein preparation, and thus, it is tasty and nutritious. The word Pemmican originates from 'pemi', meaning fat or grease. Its specialty is that it is made using different berries (chokecherry, juneberry, huckleberry, cranberry, cherry, blueberry, etc.)
Baalappia is a special pudding also made from berries (chokecherry, buffaloberry, and juneberry).
Though not traditional, Fry Bread is also another famous cuisine.
Dried food items including meat and berries are preserved using animal hides.
The time when all family members are eating together is regarded as the most sacred time of the day. So, meals are to be peaceful, when nobody generally talks.
The Crow tribals mainly used animal hides, wool, feathers, etc., which they got from animals in making their clothes. Loincloth, leather leggings (or made of wool), buckskin shirt, and belt constituted the men's wardrobe.
crow indian tribe man clothing
A native American Indian, dressed in traditional wear, standing in front of a Teepee
crow indian tribe flowered legging
An example of flowered leggings
Interestingly, men had long hair, unlike women, and it was something to be proud of.
Headgear looked like a well-arranged bracket of feather, decorated with beads on the forehead.
Women wore long dresses or skirts made from deer, bison, or buffalo skin. Their clothes were beautifully decorated with beads, elk teeth, shells, and feathers. They kept their hair short, usually braided.
Moccasins were worn as footwear by both men and women. The entire shoe was crafted out of one single piece of soft leather or deer skin.
Art and Architecture
Bead work: Use of beads is very common in the artifacts made by the Apsáalooke.
crow indian tribe beaded bracelet
Beaded bracelet on leather
crow indian tribe beaded moccasins belt
A long belt and traditional moccasins with colorful beads enhance their look.
The Crow tribals were also skilled in doingquill embroidery and carvings.
Their houses known as Teepees (or Tipis) were made from long wooden poles and animal hides. They were big conical structures as the families were large too.
At the center of the Teepee, there was an arrangement for fireplace and a hole above it to let smoke off.
crow indian tribe eye of teepee
This picture shows the eye of a Teepee from inside, with an outlet for smoke.
Teepees were mainly valued for their portability, as they were very simple to erect.
Crow tribesmen would stamp their feet at the door of the Teepee and then enter, so as to get rid of any contaminants that may come along with the feet.
Doors were to face towards the East, as it is the direction from where all the good comes, unlike the West.
The house or the Teepee was sincerely revered.
Weapons used by the Apsáalooke include tomahawk, bows, and arrows with different types of arrow points, knives, etc.
crow indian tribe weapon tomahawk
A tomahawk
crow indian tribe weapon arrow point
A type of arrow point
crow indian tribe weapon knife blade
A knife blade (with beaded handle)
They fought many wars with other tribes; however, an interesting fact is that they had a practice of touching the enemy soldier and returning, without harming or killing them. This was known as counting coup.
They would steal horses belonging to their enemies. This was a trick to humiliate the enemy.
Religion and Religious Ceremonies
Sun dance is a very important ceremony that takes place at the time of summer solstice, symbolizing the cyclical nature of life and death. It has a spiritual meaning. Tribals pray and dance for days and ask questions about their lives. Fourth evening after the moonrise is the time for rituals and ceremonies, as this period is believed to be very sacred.
Fasting is observed on many occasions to reach to the spirits. It is done often during sweat lodge.
Sweat Lodge ceremony is a spiritual cleaning process. A sweat lodge is constructed with the guidance from spiritual masters or priests. It is a place for meditation, spiritual healing, and purification.
Smoking pipe ceremony is a practice where people try to connect to the spirits by smoking. The pipe is considered to connect the Earth and sky. Smoke that comes out of the pipe is believed to carry the questions to the spirits. Traditionally, the tribe heads smoke with one pipe, passing it only to the left-hand side in a group.
Jumping and wish making is a type of ritual that is done after moonrise. Kids make a wish of being taller until the next moonrise.
Sun is referred to as a Very Old Man and is believed to be the source of all energy. Moon, on the other hand, is considered to be a Very Old Woman.

The Sun's grandson is understood to have lived on Earth. He cared for his children; therefore, it is believed that the Sun sets down on the horizon when the enemy approaches.

When in the mother's womb, it is the most sacred period of one's life.

The first three years of life are very important and define how a person would live life in future. In this period, the children do not yet belong to their parents.

Birds entering the house of a tribal are considered a bad omen. It is believed that a family member may die, if a bird is caught and held inside the house.

A dog crying outside the house without any reason and owls roosting in a house are taken as bad omens too.

Death was not believed to be a good thing, and it was grieved by making cuts on one's body so that the scars remained. Women used to cut their hair.

While clothing the dead, they began with the left-hand first, then the right-hand, and similarly, the left leg first and then the right leg. The reason being they believed that left side symbolizes death and the right side stands for life.

Also, due to this belief in the right-hand side, all their ceremonies are in a clockwise direction.

There were no memorials held for the dead, as it was believed to be like asking the dead to call on the tribals and invite them for a reason.
The Apsáalooke tribal culture speaks a lot about how closely related humans and mother nature could be. Such unparalleled stories are very innate to humankind all over the world. Hope you found the above information varied and interesting to read.